Kate Lea, Oct 2021
Education Lead at Oxfam GB and one of the first co-chairs of Our Shared World.
How did your education influence who you are? Whether it enthused or alienated you, it’s sure to have had a significant effect. My own experience was perhaps a common one: I had good science teachers, so ended up doing a Zoology degree. But soon afterwards I realised my natural interest lay more firmly in the arts and humanities. Our experiences in the formative years reverberate throughout our lives, influencing what we do and what we value.
So it’s not surprising that education has always been a contested space in terms of what and how we teach. In today’s complex world, considering the purpose of education is as important as ever. If we want a greener, fairer, more peaceful and resilient world, it’s imperative our education system supports this. For this reason, I started working with some fantastic educational experts to form Our Shared World which collaborates to support the realisation of SDG 4.7 in England by 2030.
What’s so interesting about the Our Shared World coalition and what I’ve loved about being part of it, is the range of people for whom SDG 4.7 is relevant in their work. We have people from charities, businesses, universities, teacher and headteacher unions, subject associations and youth organisations. We have been able to share a fascinating range of perspectives on the educational themes of SDG 4.7, be it sustainable development, peace, culture, human rights or global citizenship. We are learning more and more about how each theme connects with and supports the others.
What all the educational themes of SDG 4.7 have in common is the idea that a quality education is not just education about topics – it is also education for, in and through topics. ‘Education for’ gives us skills, such as thinking critically and creatively to challenge unhealthy societal norms. ‘Education in’ is about immersing ourselves in different contexts: we can’t just learn from the outside, we need to experience from the inside. Whether being in nature or having opportunities to listen to and learn from other cultures, these experiences change the way we think and feel. ‘Education through’ encompasses the idea that we learn by doing – by acting to change something in our personal lives, our local communities or as part of something bigger, such as national or global movements that challenge climate, gender or racial injustice. Taking action gives us real-life experiences that impact future choices, for example the motivation to gain more knowledge and understanding, leading to revised action.
The participatory approaches of SDG 4.7 are a crucial part of enabling all learners – especially children and young people – to thrive in today’s challenging world, not just survive. The good news is that SDG 4.7 is already successfully embedded in some schools and other education contexts. And among the Our Shared World coalition we have the expertise to support others to do the same. What we urgently need is a mandate to ensure that every learner in every educational setting benefits from this kind of education. It is an essential part of the solution to some of the most complex and challenging local and global issues we have ever faced.
Find out more about Our Shared World and what the coalition aims to do over the next nine years by taking a look at our website. Our Working Groups and wider Reference Group are open to anyone who shares our vision and upholds our principles. We hope you will consider joining us.